“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the peoples of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30, TNIV
Peter Jackson, the man most responsible for the great Lord of the Rings film trilogy, is about to premier the first part of his The Hobbit in the U.S. These movies are, of course, based on the splendid books by J.R.R. Tolkien. In preparation for the Hobbit movie, my daughters and I are watching all nine hours or so of the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings.
While watching The Fellowship of the Ring the other day, I was struck by something that Boromir says. As you may recall, Boromir is from a country called Gondor. Many years ago, the King of Gondor left his people and did not return. Since then, they have been governed by a succession of men who’s title is “The Steward of Gondor.” The Steward’s job is to keep the throne open for the eventual return of the true King.
The Steward is a lot like us. Our King, through his ascension, has gone back into Heaven. He tells us that he is coming again. In the meantime, we are left to watch after the Kingdom on his behalf. Of course, this parallel is very incomplete. We are not alone. Christ is present with us, we have the Holy Spirit, etc. But I hope you get the point.
Over the years, some of the people of Gondor have given up on waiting. The current Steward of Gondor essentially acts as if he is the king, and a demanding and difficult one at that. Boromir happens to be the eldest son of the Steward, so he is set to become Steward when his father dies. When Boromir meets a man named Aragorn, and learns that Aragorn may be the rightful heir and true King of Gondor, he is not happy. In the film version, he practically spits out this great line: “Gondor has no king; Gondor needs no king.”
How many times have we felt that way? When things are going well it is easy for us to think that we don’t need a King, we don’t need a God. When things are going poorly, when we are fed up and God does not seem to be hearing us, we might also say that we don’t need him. Sometimes we pay lip service to wanting a King, but our lives and actions show that we would rather not have one. What is true of us as individuals has also been true of large groups of people. Nations, companies, schools and even churches have essentially said “We don’t need God, we can do this on our own.”
As the Lord of the Rings story progresses, Boromir gets to know Aragorn. He finds someone who is strong yet compassionate, wise yet humble, a leader who is a servant. A moment comes when it looks like Boromir may die (I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that). He looks up at Aragorn and says “I would have followed you, my brother… my captain… my king.”
Boromir didn’t want a king because he had never known a good one. He had only known self-serving rulers. But as he got to know Aragorn he came to respect him, trust him, and even love him. Perhaps we are like Boromir. Perhaps we would rather take care of ourselves because we don’t know a better alternative.
But what if there is a better alternative? What if Jesus Christ is a good and loving and merciful king? That could be a king worth following, even a king worth turning over charge of our life to.
Advent is about waiting for the King. It is about saying “I have no king, but I need the King.” Today let me suggest turning to King Jesus, asking him to reveal himself. As we spend time with him, perhaps we too will get to know a good King whom we might trust with our lives.
Thomas McKenzie is the author of The Anglican Way, a book he describes as a traveler’s guide to the Anglican tradition, as well as The Harpooner, an Advent reader featuring harpoons—how awesome is that. He graduated from the University of Texas and attended seminary at the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1998 and planted the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville in 2004, where he is the still pastor. He’s also keeps samurai swords in his office, and wears a skull ring.
Good song by Bill Cantos on this:
What would you do for a king
If He came to your door, would you ask Him in
Would you tell Him how much you admired Him
Do you think you’d dare
Would you be too scared?
Most kings don’t seem to know much about the common man
So far removed and set apart
I cheer with thousands, we blend into a roar
Another face in an endless crowd
Is that all I really am, just one more?
So what would you do for a king
If He saw you fishing out by the sea
And He walked up to you and said “Follow me – it’s time you know”
Do you think you’d go?
And what would you do for a king
If He took off his crown and agreed to die
And as you tried to understand it, He looked you in the eye and said,
“This is for you”
Well, what would you do?
Full lyrics at http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107859068611/#vYke2JdSGxQF4jec.99
Sorry to be pedantic, but …
“Peter Jackson, the man most responsible for the great Lord of the Rings trilogy,”
Ummmm … could we qualify that as “the great ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy”?
I know what you mean, but it struck me.
I came into this post geeking and came out seeking. Everything’s been a little lost on me lately and I’ve been having trouble sorting it out. I’m overwhelmed with so many things, but I know I’ve been refusing to go to the only one who could ever do anything for me… because I don’t need a king. But I do. And now I’m seeking again. So thank you for drawing in my geek side to get to the aching soul underneath.
As a pastor I needed to hear this. I connect with Boromir and the stewards most easily, and need a reminder that I am not the king. I’m sure you, as a minister, can connect with me on this: I meet so much brokenness that I am tempted to think of myself as the one who must fix any problem instead of remembering that I am not the Messiah, and I am not the king. I DO long for the King, and needed this heralding from you. Grace and Peace and Advent!
YGG, I have never heard that song before. So. Awesome.
Ken: from where I sit, it looks like Thomas wrote “Lord of the Rings film trilogy” (italics added).
Thank you, Sir Thomas. That Boromir scene always takes me apart.
For what it’s worth, the problem you mention can be applied to children of the King as well as to the King himself (that is, that people often want nothing to do with us because they’ve never met a good one). This is not to say that any of us is good — obviously any good in us comes from God — but it strikes me rather often these days how many people seem to have reacted in anger or hatred to a lifetime of exposure to abuse (or simply loveless truth) dealt out in the name of our good King. I myself have been guilty of this misrepresentation far too often; thankfully, there is forgiveness for all who believe.
This was a great reminder to me to check the state of my heart – is it angry, hurting and closed to my King? Or soft, trusting and filled with the true revelation of who He is? I thought about submission reading this – to God first and then to fellow believers, out of love for one another and reverence for Christ. Living in this hard world, surrounded with wounded and distrustful people, it’s really too easy to follow suit and close off to everyone who attempts real, servant-hearted love. It’s really easy not to give others a chance, not to trust them. I find myself fighting this often with God, forgetting that He is the pure epitome of True Love. There is nothing to fear, submitting to Him as my King. I need a King. I need governance, as I am chaos without Him.
Thank you for this, Fr. Thomas. “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my King” is one of the best additions to appear in the LOTR films, and it’s an image helpful to contemplating the significance of the season of Advent. Cheers.
Thank you for this sentiment. Thank you so much.
I’m eagerly awaiting the end of my semester in a week so that I can finally sit down and read Tolkien’s masterwork. I hope to have a heart turned toward Him through my reading, and your pointing out a deeper truth from the story as you’ve done here will only help me to do just that.
Really wonderful stuff. Thanks be to God for fantasy literature that reveals a greater reality!
I watched the latest trailer of The Hobbit with my son yesterday and I actually woke up his morning wondering what Thomas McKenzie will have to say about the movie after he sees it. I had read a news article about people complaining about the 3D photography making them sick, and so I worried that the movie will be a disappointment.
And now this post. Wow.
I am Boromir, fearing the king is not real, fearing he is not good, fearing he will make me sick and I’ll be disappointed, to put it mildly. But by God’s good grace, I am also Boromir, getting to know the king, finding over and over again that he is indeed good and is good far, far beyond what I can even comprehend to be good.
Thank you, Fr. Thomas.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Love this. There was a passage in a Terry Pratchett book I read some time ago about kings, how, even though we like the idea of democracy, there’s just something about a king that appeals to people. I found it ironic that even an atheist like Pratchett had noticed the trend:
“It seemed to be a chronic disease. It was as if even the most intelligent person had this little blank spot in their heads where someone had written: ‘Kings. What a good idea.’ Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.”
While we often do say we don’t want a king, I think there’s a little part of all of us that likes the idea…though, of course, we idolize other things (celebrities!) if we don’t want to admit it. We all of us want a perfect monarch; we just forget, disillusioned by faulty stewards, that He exists. And someday, thank God, there’ll be a Return of the King. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.) 🙂
Also, YES. The Hobbit. So excited.
Thanks Peter. Cantos is an underrated, overlooked Nashville talent. If you’re a Phil Collins fan you might catch him singing BGVs on a DVD. Also did some work with a radio quartet called Haven of Rest. This particular song was recorded by Clay Crosse, but Bill’s own version is much better. I think I put it on grooveshark, so look for it there.
So true. I need a king, and it’s time I began living like it.
Thank you for sharing this post!
This is great.
Beautifully and powerfully said. Thank you for striding (couldn’t resist) on our idolatry.
The true King sets us free while always being with us. A beautiful and fitting article for this Advent season. Thank you Thomas.
The Hobbit is a part 1?
That is so not cool…
@JonSlone: They’re chopping it up into three parts, which is good in that they’ll have much more time to cover what goes on in the book as well as material from Tolkien’s other Middle Earth writings, and is bad in that we have to wait patiently for each part to come out and we might only see the first part before the world ends Dec 21. 😉
@Jess I thought it was December 12? As in 12/12/12? Here’s to hoping it’s the 21st. XD At least we won’t have to wait three years…the third part is coming out in summer of ’14. Hope the trilogy isn’t like butter scraped over too much bread, though.
@Eowyn: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/maya-world-end.html. 😉 And ditto on the butter. We wants it thick and creamy, yes we does.
@Jess Phew. I was worried for a second there. But hey, maybe they’d have a special showing in heaven…er, the undying lands. I’m such a nerd. 🙂
This might be a bit peripheral, but I love how you made sure not to spoil that part of the plot even though it’s not of too much importance – something I wouldn’t have worried about. It shows that you are very considerate of your readership, especially considering that the movies have been out for a while, and the books much longer.
So they are definitely breaking it into a trilogy? Stink. I’m not even too thrilled about the two parts. This is getting too big for its britches. _Hobbit_ just isn’t an epic. I see dollar signs…
@yankeegospelgirl That’s what I thought at first, but I’m starting to come around. I really do think PJ made the decision because he thought it was a good thing for the story, but at the same time, some of the early pre-release reviews for An Unexpected Journey (title of part one) have complained that it feels like a bit of a stretch. The next two movies will be called The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, which gives a clue as to each of those stories. However, again from review and statements from PJ and company, I understand that it is much less “epic” than LotR in tone, at least, which is encouraging. And no, of course I haven’t been following this with obsessive interest. 😉
I love this post. It’s so relevant to the church – at least the church that I know here and now. It was probably pretty relevant to the church Tolkien knew as well. I know that this Gondor / church connection wasn’t allegory, he surely didn’t want people to think Gondor = the church, but this picture is loaded with applicability. It’s a new concept for me, so there’s a lot of fun in store for the next time I read through the trilogy. That will be a tasty chunk of fat to chew on. Only, personally I have to guard myself against being overly cynical or judgmental about the church. Thomas did well in avoiding that and maintaining humility, an area in which I regularly fail.
Thanks TMac. The stewards of Gondor are compelling characters. First the brash Boromir, then the reticent Faramir. The films do a decent job of bringing out this part of the story. However I wish they had captured more of the Faramir and Eowyn story. That was such a touching part of the book.
As you note, I love how Aragorn wins Boromir over. It’s a fierce love that certainly points to the relentless love of Jesus. Not in a preachy or moralistic way but in a way that captures the heart of the rash man from Gondor. It’s easy to identify with him as he tries to take charge so easily dismissing the truth of his need for a king.
I am glad you and the kids will see these films in the theater. We had the joy of catching each of the LOTR films that way.
As for the splitting of the story, that does seem a bit of a money grab. Tolkien meant the Hobbit to be more of a chhildrens story. it doesnt have th complexity of LOTR. But, if they are incorporating other source material this could be a lot of fun. I am sure it will get lots of buzz here.
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